To Be a Neighbor

Some folks I know here in Kansas City recently told me a story.

A young couple who had lived in the heart of downtown among other hipster urbanites bought a house two and a half years ago in an older suburb with a quaint small town feel. Their dress, their politics, their beliefs, their interest in the arts—all made them stand out a little bit from their neighbors.

Two and a half years went by—and no neighbor said hello, no neighbor started a conversation. One set of neighbors even turned their backs every time they saw them walking down the street.

So they decided to fight back.

With sugar cookies.

This year, they made several batches of cookies, wrapped them up, and hand delivered them to their neighbors with cards that read, Thanks for being great neighbors!, determined to “deliver holiday cheer if it’s the last thing they do!”

They ended up having lovely visits with three of their four sets of neighbors. As for the fourth set, the ones who always turn their backs— the husband didn’t open the door more than a crack, and the wife stood several feet away, looking horrified at the strange young people at their door.

But at least the door opened a crack, right?

I’ve been thinking about this story since I heard it. All three Abrahamic traditions connect the act of being a neighbor with the experience of being a stranger:

Why are we good neighbors? Because we have all been strangers, wanderers, different, alone.

What does it mean to see the Christ? To see the outcast, the hungry, the poor.

Why give to the poor? Because that is what God calls us to do.

At the root of our movement of Courageous Compassion is a call to be neighborly. From Louisville to Pakistan, whether you help us respond to torrential rain or a church break-in, you are reaching out as a neighbor to people you may never meet. You come vulnerable, giving of yourself, as much a stranger to those you help as they are to you.

Why not take a chance and give of yourself? Why not reach out with Courageous Compassion

There might even be sugar cookies involved. 

Happy Christmastide!


The Ancient Hope of Christmas

Come doubting, come sure
Come fearful to this door
Come see what love is for
--Mary Chapin Carpenter

I love non-traditional spins on Christmas songs. Mary Chapin Carpenter’s song--a thoughtful original--is one of my favorites. Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLaughlin do a wonderful medley of “We Three Kings” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” The banjo on Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas album gives “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” a whole new layer of beauty. Dar Williams’ “The Christians and the Pagans” takes me back to get-togethers in divinity school. And Tom Waits’ guttural version of “Go Tell It on The Mountain” with the Blind Boys of Alabama backing him up? That song does it for me every time.

There’s something about the ancient hope of Christmas--that love, peace, and reconciliation has come into the world in the most humble, unexpected way--that seems to beg to be retold in new, amazing ways. What I love about this little verse in Carpenter’s song is that the invitation of Christmas is a wide one—for the skeptics, for the die-hards, for the cynics, for the dreamers. It evokes that wide, indiscriminate blessing from Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol:  “God bless us, every one.”

At Week of Compassion, we want to thank you so much for a year in which you have reached out with your own Courageous Compassion to so many people around the world. You have done everything you can to make room at the table for every one hurt and in need of healing, every one who has suffered under the weight of significant disasters, every one working to find new ways to support her family or community, and every one who has sought refuge from conflicts engulfing his homeland.

On these days leading up to Christmas, I am praying prayers of thanks for you. Thank you for caring. Thank you for hoping. Thank you for partnering with us in a ministry that tries to be God’s blessing around the world, around the year.

On behalf of Amy, Elaine, and Stephen, I pray that your Christmas is filled with peace, hope, and new songs to share.

- Brandon

In Memoriam

Betty L. Tankersley of Carmel, Indiana, passed away unexpectedly on December 16, 2010. Betty was a graduate of Leavenworth (KS) High School and Chapman University (CA). At 19, she married her high school sweetheart, Larry D. Tankersley, who served as Director of Week of Compassion from 1972-1992. Their marriage survived 44 years, until his death in 1999. During this time, they helped each other obtain their respective formal educations and raise 3 children. She and Larry served congregations in Enid, Oklahoma; Richardson, Corpus Christi and Kingwood, Texas; Miami, Florida; and Fullerton, California. After retiring from the pastorate, they continued to serve many, many people through their service with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the National Council of Churches. Betty also served as director for the adult re-entry program at Chapman University and was a successful realtor. Following her retirement in 1999, Betty continued to serve others in her capacity as a volunteer for St. Vincent Hospital, Indianapolis, and the Carmel Senior Center. She was also very active in her role as an elder of Carmel Christian Church.

A memorial service is set for Wednesday, December 29, 2010, at 1:00 p.m. at Carmel Christian Church, 463 East Main Street, Carmel, IN. Visitation will begin at 12:00 p.m. Memorial contributions may be made in Betty's name to the Christian Church Foundation for the WoC- Tankersley Fund, c/o Christian Church Foundation, P. O. Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206-1986.


Weekly Roundup

Celebrate a Courageous Christmas!

This Christmas, what if you gave the gift of clean water, the gift of a new start after a severe flood, the gift of a new way for communities to support themselves?

We invite you to share your passion for making a difference in the world by giving a Courageous Christmas gift on behalf of someone this holiday season.

Week of Compassion will send you a Courageous Compassion note card to give to those you are honoring this Christmas with your generous gift.

Please contact us by December 21 if you would like someone to receive either a note card personalized by Week of Compassion or an e-mail acknowledgement sent by WoC.

If you are intending to make an online gift requiring multiple acknowledgements, please first contact Elaine at If you would like to donate by check, please send to WoC, PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206.

Week of Compassion Partner IMA World Health Featured on ABC's 20/20

IMA World Health’s Safe Motherhood KitTM is scheduled to be featured on ABC’s 20/20 program this Friday, December 17 at 10:00 Eastern/9:00 Central. The special episode of 20/20 is entitled “Be the Change: Save a Life,” and according to ABC will focus on “six common health problems from around the world and what can be done to fix them.” 
The hosts will highlight a few simple measures that can make a significant impact for health, one of which will be the IMA Safe Motherhood KitTM.
More information about IMA and the Safe Motherhood KitTM is on their website. For a short ABC promotional video about the program, click here.

Diseases We Can Stop, But Don't

Some of the world's most glaring health problems affecting impoverished girls and women are also some of the easiest to address. The fact that we consistently fail to do so is puzzling.

Read more.

Disciple Mission Fund: Christmas Special Offering

Why is it that John 3:16 has been beloved for so long?

Perhaps it's because it speaks of the awesome generosity of God. Help support the development of faith, the creation of community, and the strengthening of the congregations in your Region by giving to the Christmas offering this year.

The New Hungry: College-Educated, Middle-Class Cope with Food Insecurity

Stories of “the new hungry” are flooding food banks across the country.

Read more here.

The Advent Spirit in a Detroit Courtroom

“Twelve years ago, it was a particularly bad day in Detroit. A storm came through as the temperature hovered just below freezing, and the precipitation switched between freezing rain and snow, making any outdoor movement treacherous.”
Read More.

"To Make Better"

Rev. Bonnie Carenen is a former Week of Compassion Intern now working with Church World Service in Indonesia.

I named a child.

We were rained in on Saturday in the town of Sikakap, the main city where aid distribution and tsunami response is carrying on after the Oct. 25 earthquake and tsunami in the Mentawai Islands. The sea was too rough for the boats, and the roads were too muddy for aid vehicles to pass through, even CWS’ motorcycles. We spent the afternoon in the makeshift hospital into which the local Protestant church had been converted. The matron explained that more than 100 patients and their families had been treated there. Fortunately, many of them had recovered and found other places to stay. One infant who was treated, Baby Emmanuel, was described as a miracle baby: both his parents had died, but rescue workers found him two days later--still alive.

One young woman and her family were still at the hospital, living on rolled-out mats on the cement floor of the church building. She had given birth at the hospital two months prematurely, just three days after the tsunami. Her husband and home were lost in the earthquake and tsunami. That was almost a month ago, and her baby still didn’t have a name. The infant was seriously jaundiced, and was hospitalized in Padang, the nearest big city with a hospital, that is more than a twelve hour boat ride from the Mentawai islands. The mother was severely traumatized and lost in her grief.

The mother hadn’t named the child partly because there wasn’t yet an opportunity for a baptism, and partly because, as a new widow and first time mother to a seriously ill baby, she was completely overwhelmed. When the mother’s friend found out I came from the church, she asked me to name the child.

Was she serious?! I said, “I can’t name the baby unless the mother says it is okay.” Meanwhile, the mother sat whittling her toenails with a sharp knife. Translating into the local language, the friend asked if it was alright, and the mother gave a short shrug, and said that was fine. The baby was a girl.

Holding the child, I thought about the importance of a person’s name. And what an honor it is to have been asked, as a pastor, to christen the child. I asked the child who she wanted to be, who she already was, and what blessings she would be for the world.

And it came to me. Amelia.

She will be Amelia because it means “to make better.” My deep hope is that her calling and her gift may be to make things better for her mother and family and community, after the unimaginable loss they have endured. And within that, she may find her strength.

Bonnie and Amelia Joy. (Photo by CWS)And, according to the local tradition, she needed a middle name. I held Amelia for a long time, discerning what her middle name would be. I considered many of my favorite women from the Bible and from my own life. I thought about this child born in the church building after the family’s life and community were rocked apart and carried away in a wave. And I thought about Advent as the season of Expectation, and the waiting and wanting of the whole world to achieve the joy of the world as God created it to be. The next day would be the beginning of the second week of Advent, commonly marked by the theme of Joy. “Joy will come in the morning”(Psalm 30).
Amelia’s middle name will be Joy: anticipation, expectation, and ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise.
I pray that she will make the difficult times that her mom will endure in the next weeks and months better, and that circumstances in her own life will improve. Meanwhile, Joy, which I explained is “holy happiness” that comes from God, is in their midst, like the miracle of the child Emmanuel.

Weekly Roundup

Week of Compassion Partner Responds to Needs of Disabled in Haiti

Overlooked. Voiceless. Through our partners at Church World Service, Week of Compassion is helping meet the needs of some of Haiti's people with disabilities.

Read More

Kansas Disciples Ministry Featured on Good Morning, America

Nowa Littlesun, the Director of the Open Arms Diner, a feeding ministry of First Christian Church, Independence, KS, will appear on Good Morning, America on December 30. Tune in and not only celebrate their ministry, but also learn about ways you can respond to needs in your own community. Rev. Terry Hatfield is the pastor of FCC, Independence.

A Season for Mischief and Conspiracy: A New Take on Christmas Charity

"It's ludicrous that we celebrate the birth of the homeless baby Jesus by indulging in the biggest consumer spending of the year, scurrying around trying to find something to buy for people who have everything." 

So what's the solution? Read more here.

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Uganda, medical relief
Zimbabwe, medical needs
Kansas, feeding ministry
Arizona, emergency water needs
Indiana, house fire

Click here for more responses.

Sing a New Song!

I waited patiently for the LORD;
   he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
   out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
   making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth
                 -Psalm 40:1-3

Two nights ago, Community Christian Church in Kansas City, MO, hosted their 15th Annual Jazz Carol Fest, a fun, and always successful, fundraiser for Week of Compassion. Each year, some of Kansas City’s best jazz musicians come together to perform at Community, helping to raise close to $150,000 since its inception toward our ministries of disaster relief, sustainable development, and refugee resettlement. It’s an amazing evening filled with laughter, music, and celebration. 

But more than that, it’s a great example of a church finding a way to use its gifts--the resources of the community in which it is nestled, the energy of its volunteers, and the passions and interests of its members--to live out a sense of Courageous Compassion.

Over the last year, I’ve been privileged to see so many churches involve themselves in creative, life-giving ministries. I've walked around Saint Louis with Rev. Margie Pride and Memorial Boulevard Christian Church to help raise more than $10,000 for clean water projects. I've heard from folks like George Armstrong, coordinator of one of our successful Foods Resource Bank growing projects in Valparaiso, IN, who was thrilled to let us know that they have raised more than $11,000 to support agricultural development overseas. I’ve been delighted to see how these and other of our churches have lived out the Gospel’s call to love our neighbors—even neighbors whose names we don’t know—as ourselves.

It’s been fun to see churches like First Christian Church in Paris, TN, Saint Paul Christian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Geist Christian Church in Indianapolis excitedly launch our new “Wine to Water/Water for All” program and find fun ways to turn social events into points of advocacy and ministry for those who need access to clean, potable water. It’s been fun to see work trip groups—many packing their tools up for the very first time—head to Louisiana, Texas, Iowa, and Tennessee to put their skills to work helping with flood and hurricane recovery.

There are many ways to make a difference in the world, and many ways to partner with Week of Compassion to meet people both near and far at points of serious need. We are grateful for the contributions you have made to the ministry of Week of Compassion. In this Advent season, a time of renewal, anticipation, and hope, may our imaginations lead us to new songs to sing—not only of praise, but of mercy, courage, and compassion. May those new songs become new ministries in the coming year!  

Celebrate a Courageous Christmas!

This Christmas, what if you gave the gift of clean water, the gift of a new start after a severe flood, the gift of a new way for communities to support themselves?

We invite you to share your passion for making a difference in the world by giving a Courageous Christmas gift on behalf of someone this holiday season.

Week of Compassion will send you a Courageous Compassion note card to give to those you are honoring this Christmas with your generous gift.

Please contact us by December 21 if you would like someone to receive either a note card personalized by Week of Compassion or an e-mail acknowledgement sent by WoC.

If you are intending to make an online gift requiring multiple acknowledgements, please first contact Elaine at

Weekly Roundup

Celebrate a Courageous Christmas with Week of Compassion

This Christmas, what if you gave the gift of clean water, the gift of a new start after a severe flood, the gift of a new way for communities to support themselves?

We invite you to share your passion for making a difference in the world by giving a Courageous Christmas gift on behalf of someone this holiday season.

Week of Compassion will send you a Courageous Compassion note card to give to those you are honoring this Christmas with your generous gift.

Please contact us by December 21 if you would like someone to receive either a note card personalized by Week of Compassion or an e-mail acknowledgement sent by WoC.

If you are intending to make an online gift requiring multiple acknowledgements, please first contact Elaine at

CBS Haiti Special: Religion's Response to Disaster

NEW YORK, NY -- Church World Service Haiti Program Manager Burton Joseph will be featured in "Haiti: Religion's Response to Disaster," a CBS Religion Special about the faith community's assistance to survivors of the devastating earthquake, to be broadcast Sunday, Dec. 5, on the CBS Television Network. (Please check your local CBS station for exact time.) For more information, click here.

Forbes Names IMA to “10 Most Efficient Charities”

Financial publication Forbes has named Week of Compassion partner IMA World Health to its list of the “10 Most Efficient” U.S. charities, the third year in a row that Forbes has listed IMA as one of the most efficient.

“We are deeply honored to again be recognized for our efficient operations,” says Rick Santos, President and CEO of IMA. “All of us at IMA are continually aware of our need to leverage every dollar to do more, and we recognize that those who donate to IMA’s work and those who benefit from our programs deserve no less.”

Each year Forbes lists the top 200 charities in the U.S., and recognizes those few that demonstrate the greatest efficiency.

To review the Forbes article, follow this link.

Special Offer from Equal Exchange!

From now until December 31, if you place an order on our Interfaith Web store receive a FREE Disciples of Christ Coffee Project mug when you enter the word “mugs” in the promotional code box on the payment screen!

In addition to delicious fairly-traded coffee, tea, chocolate and snacks, Equal Exchange has some special items on the web store, including gift baskets and gift wrap handmade from recycled cotton by artisans in India. As a reminder, when you purchase from Equal Exchange, EE makes a donation ($0.15 per pound) to Week of Compassion and Disciples Home Missions.

For ‘Lost Boy,’ Vote in Sudan Is Homecoming

NYAL, SUDAN — Joseph Gatyoung Khan made a vow, uttered in the back seat of a Land Cruiser on a very bumpy road, as he headed home for the first time in 22 years: I will not cry.

Read more.

This Week’s Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Angola, flood relief
Haiti, hurricane recovery
Tennessee, flood recovery

Click here for more responses.

Modeling Microcredit in the Dominican Republic

Reflections by Erin McKinney

A couple of weeks ago, The New York Times ran an article discussing a “collapse of microcredit.” The article focused on several emerging microcredit enterprises in India—run mainly for profit—whose loan recipients are defaulting, leading to a crisis in the Indian financial sector. From my experience, these programs are not failing because of something inherently wrong with microcredit, but because they are focused only on the bottom line. A microcredit system that disperses money but does not provide community support or skill development only allows people to drown in debt. If loan recipients experience crisis and are unable to pay their loans, they withdraw more loans to keep up with payments, beginning a vicious cycle that quickly drives people into over-indebtedness. Profit-focused microcredit institutions provide capital, but not true opportunities for the poor.

Not-for-profit or person-centered microcredit programs do much more than provide money; instead, they focus on skill development and community support. Caminante, a non-profit partner of Global Ministries, Church World Service and Week Of Compassion in the Dominican Republic, runs such a program. Caminante’s work focuses on at-risk children, youth and adults, especially those subject to, or victims of, commercial sexual exploitation. Over the past year, they established a ‘person-focused’ microcredit program supported by a small grant from Week of Compassion. Many women do not have economic opportunities in Boca Chica, which can force them into prostitution or their children into labor. The project does not merely give out a loan to be paid back in monthly installments. Instead, every 15 days, the women that have received loans meet together as a support group. Meetings include training and guidance on repayment and other financial skills; group members give one another support—and not just as business owners.

Two stories illustrate how this model truly makes a difference in peoples’ lives.

Graciela’s Story

Graciela and her daughter (center) in a support group meeting in a Caminante homework room. Photo by Erin McKinney.Graciela is a single mother who has borrowed $45 USD in the form of a microcredit loan. She sells women’s undergarments in her community at a lower price than the tourist stores and provides them with convenience. Her customers don’t have to take the day-long trip to the capital city, Santo Domingo. During one of the meetings Graciela expressed her sense of sham, as she is illiterate. She is unable to help her daughter with school work. This severely lowers her self-esteem.

Her daughter is behind in school and is getting additional help through Caminante’s afterschool program, but Graciela feels responsible—she should be able to help her daughter! However, through her microcredit support group, she learned of an adult literacy class. Although her business may not grow into a multi-million dollar corporation, her continued education will help her discover more opportunities as well as improve her ability to help her daughter in school and be a positive role model advocating for the importance of education.

If Graciela becomes ill, her business is put on hold. A bank would not consider this an excuse for missing loan payments, and Graciela would have to take out other loans in order to keep up with payments. In Caminante’s project the circumstances an individual faces are taken into consideration, and the support group would quickly learn of Graciela’s situation and offer support, or allow her extra time to make a payment without increased interest. Profit-focused microcredit banks may allow for missed payments; however, with compound interest, the interest rate could approach 60%, forcing customers further into debt instead of providing them with opportunities to rise out of poverty.

Diurna’s Story

Diurna sewing in her home. Photo by Erin McKinney.Diurna comes from a community in Boca Chica where severe economic need makes women vulnerable to the commercial sex trade and their children vulnerable to hard labor. Diurna took a class in Caminante’s vocational school and learned to sew. With a microloan of $150 USD she was able to purchase a sewing machine and materials to begin working out of her home. Before the loan, she cared for her three young children while her husband worked in a tourist district on the other side of the island, but had no means to make money on her own. If an emergency arose or her children became ill, she wouldn’t have money to pay for any expenses until her husband returned after 2 weeks on the job.

I visited Diurna one morning before she started her business. Unable to pay her electricity bill, her power was turned off. Now a successful “breadwinner,” she is able to sew out of her home and has 3 months worth of alteration and hemming work from people in her community. She has a regular income and can take care of family needs as they arise. She is now known in her community as the seamstress, although traditionally such a job is considered a male enterprise.

On Saturdays Diurna is ‘able to teach some of the neighborhood girls how to sew,’ providing them with a constructive activity and a different perspective on what it means to be a woman. She also encourages other women to take advantage of the opportunities provided by Caminante’s vocational school. Diurna isn’t just a recipient of a loan; she is an empowered woman, balancing caring for her children, working, and continuing her education.

Recognizing the difference between profit-driven and person-centered microcredit is important. While microcredit is no “silver bullet” to end poverty, programs supported by Week of Compassion partners do more than give loans—these programs invest in peoples’ lives.

{Erin McKinney served as a Global Mission Intern from 2008-2010 with Caminante in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. Global Ministries’ Global Mission Internship program is supported by your Week of Compassion dollars. To help support this program, consider a donation to Week of Compassion.}

Thanksgiving Greetings from Week of Compassion!

During this Week of Thanksgiving and Gratitude, we wish you a peace and hope-filled time with friends and loved ones.

We are so grateful for your ministry with us. In a year filled with natural disasters and economic uncertainty, you have continued to step out in Courageous Compassion and respond to needs all over the world.
All of us at Week of Compassion--Amy, Brandon, Elaine, Stephen, and the entire Advisory Committee--give thanks to God for you.
Happy Thanksgiving!


Weekly Roundup

Microcredit Crisis?

Though microcredit has been lauded as an important tool in ending extreme poverty, it is hardly a silver bullet. In fact, India faces some questions about the negative impact of microcredit.

Learn more here.

Can Faith Fight Poverty?

Poverty is not a Democratic or a Republican issue, but a moral one. Read more here.

2011 General Assembly

The 2011 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) features a number of fantastic speakers, preachers, and music. Interested in seeing who will be there? Check the roster out here.

This Week’s Responses

Disaster Relief
Pakistan, flood relief

Sustainable Development
Kenya, food security
East Africa, developing youth leadership and empowerment
Zimbabwe, rural health project
DR Congo, women's income generation
South Africa, education for young girls
Indonesia, conflict resolution
Pakistan, peace education for youth
Gran Chaco, support for indigenous youth
Mexico, education for vulnerable children
West Bank, food security
Egypt, community development
Asian Pacific, energy-saving project
China, family income generation

Click here for this year's responses.

Celebrate a Courageous Christmas with Week of Compassion!

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined."-Isaiah 9:2

If this was a year for anything, it was the year to be overwhelmed.

From El Salvador to Haiti, Pakistan to Nashville, Chile to Iowa, 2010 has been a year of overwhelming disasters.

Families struggling, whether in a Central American village or North American suburb-news reports and neighborhood conversations seem to tell the same story.

Now the Christmas season...or at least ads for the Christmas season...are upon us, and we find ourselves overwhelmed by an increasingly packed calendar, menus to prepare, presents to purchase, and all sorts of gatherings of families and friends.

This Christmas, Week of Compassion invites you to be overwhelmed by something else:


This Christmas, what if you gave the gift of clean water, the gift of a new start after a severe flood, the gift of a new way to feed and support your family? 

We invite you to share your passion for making a difference in the world by giving a Courageous Christmas gift on behalf of someone this holiday season

Week of Compassion will send you a Courageous Christmas Card to give to those you are honoring this Christmas with your generous gift.

This Christmas, we invite you to become overwhelmed by Courageous Compassion, and partner with us to make the light of Christmas joy shine all over the world.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." --John 1:5

For a single gift requiring multiple acknowledgements, please contact Elaine at


Call to Action on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

The General Assembly of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service, meeting in New Orleans this week, will give consideration to a resolution that calls for action on comprehensive immigration reform. The resolution, among other things, calls for a “New Year’s Resolution Campaign” asking people of faith to make personal New Year’s resolutions to urge Congress to pass immigration reform legislation in 2011. Jennifer Riggs, Director of Refugee and Immigration Ministries (RIM) serves on the NCC/CWS General Assembly Immigration Task Force that sponsored this resolution. RIM is a program of Disciples Home Missions supported by Week of Compassion.
Learn more about the NCC/CWS Resolution.
Learn more about the New Year’s Resolution Campaign. 

Disciples Congregations: Week of Compassion Needs Your Input!

The Week of Compassion offering is conducting research to help guide the offering in the coming years -- and your input is very important to us. We have developed an online survey of 33 questions that will take about 15 minutes to complete, and we would be very grateful for your participation. Your opinions and responses will help shape the offering's future.

We know your time is valuable, and hope you will complete this survey in the next two weeks. We will begin compiling data after November 15, and want to be sure your input is included. If you know others whose opinions would be useful to this effort, please pass this information along to them.

To get started, click here. If you have any questions, please send an email to

Thank you for your participation!

Keeping an Eye on Tomas

As Tomas re-intensified from a tropical storm into a hurricane Friday, Week of Compassion partners in Port-au-Prince report rising water levels and driving winds of 85 mph that have already damaged banana plantations, and the storms forced evacuations among the 1.3 million people displaced by January’s landmark earthquake. 

The city center of Leogane is flooded after the Rouyonne River broke through its banks. Rain is only beginning in Haiti’s northern areas.

CWS partner and ACT Alliance member Norweigian Church Aid reports flooded camps in Cité Soleil.

The communities of Les Palmes, Delatte, and Petit-Goave have suffered extensive damage following the rains and some strong winds. There are destroyed houses and plantations, landslides, trees uprooted, roads damaged. With crops planted in October, harvests were to occur at the end of November or early December. Most of these crops seem to be destroyed now, which means stocks of foods and seeds are seriously compromised.

Our Response

Through our partners on the ground, Week of Compassion is actively involved in responding to the Jan. 12 earthquake; staff and local partners have made preparations for Tomas’ landfall. "The UN has noted a shortage of tarps in Haiti for emergency shelter needs," said CHurch World Service Haiti Program Coordinator Aaron Tate. That may be an issue if Tomas impacts the country substantially. "Fortunately CWS and its partners have been able to pre-position about 10,000 tarps and a sizeable stock of hygiene kits for immediate needs."

As foul weather dissipates, CWS staff in Port-au-Prince will begin to assess damage and determine appropriate action.  As of Saturday morning, 6 people have died in Haiti and the spread of cholera is feared.

How to Help

Contributions to help with the response can be made online or they can be sent to Week of Compassion, PO BOX 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206.

Weekly Update

As Winter Approaches, Pakistani Flood Survivors Risk Exposure and Hunger

As winter approaches in Pakistan, there are still considerable needs remaining from the devastating floods that hit several months ago. The communication staff of Church World Service offers this report.

To donate for Pakistan Flood Relief, visit here.

Immigration Conversations Continue at Conference in San Diego

Since Columbus Day, Refugee and Immigration Ministries (RIM) has invited congregations to hold conversations on issues surrounding immigration. In February, those conversations will continue at a conference in San Diego.

“Turning Walls into Tables… A BORDER Experience” will take place February 10-13, 2011.

To learn more about Congregational Immigration Conversations, visit here.

To register, or for more information about the San Diego Conference, click here.

“The Babel Table: from Tower to Table”

This project is aimed at engaging young adults in a church-wide conversation around the issues of "becoming a multicultural and inclusive church." This program will bring together groups of 12-15 Disciples young adults to participate in a hands-on mission and learning experience through a series of work trips to three different Disciples mission centers across the United States. All expenses will be covered.

Applications are now being received, with a November 15 deadline. For more details and to apply, visit here.

Disciples Congregations: Week of Compassion Needs Your Input!

The Week of Compassion offering is conducting research to help guide the offering in the coming years -- and your input is very important to us. We have developed an online survey of 33 questions that will take about 15 minutes to complete, and we would be very grateful for your participation. Your opinions and responses will help shape the offering's future.

We know your time is valuable, and hope you will complete this survey in the next two weeks. We will begin compiling data after November 15, and want to be sure your input is included. If you know others whose opinions would be useful to this effort, please pass this information along to them.

To get started, click here. If you have any questions, please send an email to

Thank you for your participation!

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Week of 10/25 – 10/29/10
Alabama, flood relief
Iraq, assistance to Iraqi IDPs and refugees
Somalia, assistance to Somali IDPs and refugees

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Week of 11/1 – 11/5/10
Sudan, emergency preparedness
Mexico, flood relief
Virginia, church damage
Ohio, resettled refugee assistance

Click here for more responses.

“A Supermarket of Disaster” and a Thanking of Two Special People

Rev. Bonnie Carenen is a former Week of Compassion Intern now working with Church World Service in Indonesia. She wrote this update last week, following a number of disasters that hit the country she currently calls home:

Indonesia is sometimes called a "supermarket of disaster" because tectonic activity under the ocean floor regularly causes earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes. Other disasters that affect this tropical archipelago are climate change, environmental degradation, and pollution.

In under-developed rural areas, rain and harvest patterns are changing faster than subsistence farmers can adapt. Vast agricultural areas experience drought and flooding that wipe out crops and livestock.

Meanwhile, the urban megatropolis of Jakarta is saturated with 20 million vehicles on roads that have not been adequately expanded in forty years. Citywide, drainage and sewage systems are 80% clogged with trash and debris like plastic bags, plastic water bottles and food wrappers, so that when it rains, many parts of the city flood--paralyzing the city's transportation grid.

If Indonesia is a supermarket of disaster, last week featured a "four day special."

Monday evening the capital city of Jakarta ground to a halt. Unusually heavy rains inundated the city's gutters and sewers and clogged traffic routes with muddy water, rubbish, and raw sewage. Hundreds of thousands of people were trapped on the roadways, with traffic at a dead standstill for up to six hours or more. Experts estimate that traffic and flooding problems like these cost the city more than three billion US dollars per year.

Boats ferry medicines to the tsunami-hit Pagai islands. Photo by ACT/YEU/Agnes DewiTuesday evening a 7.7 RS earthquake and subsequent tsunami affected the small Indonesian island community of Mentawai. The quake occurred around 9 p.m. when most residents had already gone to bed. Lacking telecommunications or electricity in this part of Indonesia, an early warning system was not in place and currently, is not even possible. The 12-foot high tsunami led to an estimated 500 deaths. The Indonesian government and many NGOs (such as where I work, Church World Service) have been very quick to respond with relief aid and a commitment to long-term recovery efforts.

On Wednesday and again on Thursday, Indonesia's-and the world's-most active volcano, Mt. Merapi, erupted outside the city of Yogjakarta in central Java. It continued to erupt throughout the weekend. Fifty thousand people evacuated and 34 people died in the eruption. Seismologists suggest that the tsunami-triggering earthquake in Mentawai and the eruption of Mt. Merapi are connected, since they occurred along the same under-ocean tectonic fault lines. Sulphuric fumes fill the air. Otherwise the affected area looks startlingly like a winter wonderland, as "ash rain" has settled and coated everything with inches of thin, white soot.

Another disaster, not as widely publicized and not as new, has occurred on the far eastern end of Indonesia on the island of Papua. Rampant and devastating flooding in the area of Wasior, precipitated primarily by clear-cut logging and mountaintop removal mining practices, have degraded and eroded the topsoil. Floods are common and increasingly destructive.

YEU staff unload relief goods in Kemalang, Central Java. Photo by ACT/YEU/Didik RiyantoIndonesians acknowledge that tremendous natural resources that promote life in Indonesia and give it an international profile exist because of the nutrient-rich volcanic soil. (This is, after all, the home of the isle of Java, famous for its coffee, and the historic Spice Islands of colonial lore.) Indonesians' bane of existing right along the Pacific Ring of Fire is also its blessing in promoting life and abundance for people here and all over the world.

Indonesians also acknowledge the growing pangs and pitfalls of developing into a modern, democratic state. While many parts of Indonesia remain impoverished, urban centers like Jakarta are pulsing hubs of technology, industry, and capital. Indonesia's government and citizens are compelled to witness and respond to a widening gap between the richest and the poorest, a responsibility that many governments and citizens in the West have willfully ignored or denied.

Indonesians also take religious conviction and community very seriously. They ask deeply religious questions when interpreting why disasters happen and deciding how to respond. In the world's most populous Muslim nation, religious authority, spiritual practices, and moral truths maintain a high cultural value. When disasters happen, the multiple and interfaith religious communities and the nation are able to rely on this strong backbone of their respect for and commitment to religious traditions. They come together to attend especially to the injured, poor, orphans, and widows. Acknowledging the contributions of religious communities in a country that is prone to disaster, both natural and human-made, is a powerful step in identifying and pursuing responsible responses.

Writing from a "supermarket of disaster" in Indonesia to congregations in North America who are consumers and producers of courageous compassion, I am grateful to witness and share the wisdom of Indonesians with others who witness and share the pain of loss, and the transformative power of gracious generosity.

Rev. Bonnie K. Carenen
Church World Service Indonesia
29 October 2010

Thank You, Carl and Robin

As many of you may know, Carl and Robin Zerweck ended their ministry with Disciples Volunteering in October. Over the past several years, the Zerwecks were fabulous partners with Week of Compassion, putting their hearts and souls into the Disciples Hurricane Recovery Initiative and many other projects that have helped communities recovering from disaster.

We are so grateful for the Zerwecks’ ministries of courage and compassion, and wish them the best as they tackle the next chapter in their life. Thanks, Robin and Carl, for all you have done and for all that you are!

We are grateful for all of those with whom we partner all over the world and all over the country. We could not be present as a ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), if it weren’t for partners like Bonnie, Carl, Robin, and you! If you would like to contribute to our efforts in Indonesia, or perhaps contribute to future domestic disaster responses by giving a gift in celebration of Robin and Carl’s ministry, please visit here.

Help us Respond: Indonesia, Cholera in Haiti, Storms in the United States


Over the last few days, severe weather has ripped through the United States, a massive tsunami and violent volcanic eruption have struck Indonesia, and reports of a cholera outbreak in Haiti have filled media reports from that region.

Through our ecumenical and denominational partnerships, Week of Compassion has been there. We are monitoring these situations and are ready, once evaluations have been made, to help provide valuable resources to help our brothers and sisters across the globe as they begin the path to recovery. 

Tsunami and Volcano Strike Indonesia

Indonesia is currently dealing with two disasters: a powerful earthquake that triggered a tsunami that killed at least 272 people, with the death toll rising, and a volcanic eruption that has prompted displacement of hundreds.

The 7.7-magnitude earthquake and 10-foot-high tsunami struck on October 25th, stemming from a fault on the west coast of Sumatra. Besides the confirmed dead, as many as 500 were reported missing, the Associated Press reported.

According to our partners at Church World Service, at least six villages were inundated by the waves and 645 families have been displaced.

Meanwhile, Mount Merapi, Indonesia's most volatile volcano, erupted on the 26th. At least one person was killed in the panic of those fleeing the affected area; 28 people are reported to have died as a result of the volcanic eruption.

More than 11,000 people live on the 9,377-foot-high mountain, 310 miles southeast of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

Volcano experts say there is the possibility of a second major eruption, prompting a maximum alert level. Indonesian officials began evacuating persons from the slopes of Mt. Merapi yesterday as another eruption appeared imminent.

Our Church World Service partners are currently providing baby care kits and assessing tsunami-related needs in partnership with the Mentawai Christian Protestant Church. CWS staff are also monitoring Mount Merapi for further developments.

Preventing Cholera in Haiti

Efforts supported by Week of Compassion are helping to prevent the spread of the cholera outbreak that began in Haiti late last week.

Through our partnerships with Church World Service and ACT Alliance, preventive measures are being taken in project areas in order to keep the infection from spreading around the country and particularly to the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other metropolitan areas.

Among the actions taken are assessments of clean-water needs at CWS-supported agricultural cooperatives, preparations to provide CWS hygiene kits in areas where CWS and other members of the ACT Alliance are working, and, should local markets run out of chlorine and other needed items, preparations are being made for partners in the neighboring Dominican Republic to purchase items and transport them into Haiti.

CWS is supporting efforts by ACT Alliance to provide clean water, including in Port-au-Prince, as part of its overall support for ongoing recovery and rehabilitation programs in Haiti.

Louis Dorvilier of the Lutheran World Federation, one of our ecumenical partners within the ACT Alliance, said that the "consequences of the epidemic reaching Port-au-Prince would be devastating."

In addition to the active response given in the communities, ACT Alliance members in Haiti have met with partners and their staff to raise awareness of the cholera outbreak, and stocked rehydration salts, antibiotics, water and hygiene items. Other items, such as water purification tablets, have been ordered already and will be distributed in camps and schools in the coming days and weeks as precaution measures. All efforts are being carried out in close cooperation and coordination with Haiti governmental agencies working in the areas of health and water/sanitation, and with UN agencies.

Storms in the Midwest and South

Week of Compassion is currently in touch with several regional ministers after storms ripped through the Midwest and southern United States early this week. First Christian Church in Cullman, Alabama, sustained major damage after severe weather struck the area, and we are currently partnering with that church to help with their recovery.

Reaching Out with Gratitude

We are so grateful for your partnership, especially when disasters such as these strike. The needs are great, and we need your help to support relief efforts. If you would like to reach out to help those who are vulnerable due to weather, the outbreak of disease, or other disasters, please consider partnering with us by donating to our Compassion Response Fund (labeled “Where Most Needed”).

Thank you for your partnership in our ministry of Courageous Compassion. No gift is too small! By helping us reach out at such a time, you are making a huge difference in the lives of people across the country and across the world.

Thanks to Church World Service writers for their contributions to this update.

Words, Video, and New Fire!

Call For Writers

Seeking Liturgy, Sermon Starters & Activities for All Ages

DEADLINE: November 15, 2010

You may have seen our Week of Compassion Offering resources before, but did you know we are partners with a wider ecumenical effort, the “One Great Hour of Sharing”? By working together, we are able to make our resources go further as we promote the work we do as individual denominations and together.

Now, you have a chance to contribute!

Share your unique voice as a writer of resources for the ecumenical community across the U.S., collecting the 2012 Week of Compassion Offering. If your entry is selected for use, you will be compensated! For complete information and compensation schedule, visit and click the Writer Call for Entries button. Be sure to review the Guidelines for submission. Questions? Drop an email to

The Faith Community’s Role in Refugee Resettlement and Advocacy

A Church World Service paper presented at a University of Oxford conference explores the positive historical and contemporary role of U.S. churches in refugee resettlement and advocacy. Jennifer Riggs, Director of Refugee and Immigration Ministries (RIM), was one of those interviewed for the paper, which highlights the positive impact of resettlement not only on refugees but also on the communities that welcome them. RIM is a program of Disciples Home Missions funded by your Week of Compassion offerings.

Click here to learn more

Talking about Hunger and Poverty

In preparation for the Church World Service CROP Walk, Park Street Christian Church in Charlottesville, VA, recently talked about hunger during worship. Then they decided to share it with the world. Want to see? Follow this link.

Catch the New Fire

New Fire is a network of ecumenical organizations and Christian communions that seek to revitalize the Church by engaging and developing the next generation of Christian leaders. This year’s New Fire Gathering will be in conjunction with the National Council of Churches Centennial Gathering in New Orleans, LA, November 7-9. Interested? Information and registration is available here.

Shaken: A Story of Returning to Haiti

“When minister and aid specialist James Gulley came home alive from the Haitian earthquake—barely, after an incredible survival ordeal in Port-au-Prince—he turned right around and went back. His son went, too, discovering the true power of a faith he'd never shared.” Read the full story here.

Split Ticket

Did you know that the Executive and Associate Directors of Week of Compassion have a new book out, co-edited with their friend and colleague, Christian Piatt? It’s available on Chalice Press. Follow this link to see the book’s promotional video.

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Philippines, typhoon relief
North Carolina, flood damage

Click here for more responses.

Volunteers Work With Courageous Compassion

November Blitz Build with Disciples Volunteering

Northwood Christian Church in Beaumont, TX, housed hundreds of volunteers who helped neighbors rebuild their homes and their lives following Hurricanes Rita (2005) and Ike (2008). Volunteers took over Northwood’s multipurpose building for weeks at a time, and members at Northwood were thrilled to provide the space – even though they had lost their main building, which contained their sanctuary, classrooms, and office space, during Hurricane Rita.

On a typical Sunday morning, the rec room of their multipurpose building was transformed into a worship space. Each Sunday afternoon, the space was converted to accommodate work groups. Now, after five years of working, dreaming, praying, and planning, Northwood is on the verge of returning to a permanent place of worship.

This summer, Disciples Volunteering coordinated a major building effort at Northwood. Volunteers from congregations across the country came to frame, roof, side, insulate, and sheetrock a new building, complete with sanctuary, office space and classrooms, on the footprint of their old building. The new building is nearly complete.

Now is the time to thank the folks at Northwood for their sacrificial giving, despite their own loss.
Now is the time to volunteer, spend a day, a week, or two weeks in Beaumont.
Now is the time to finish the work!

Disciples Volunteering is calling for volunteers to come Get Dirty for Jesus! and help finish the building.

The work will take place Nov. 7 – 21. The new building will be dedicated on Nov. 21 at 3:00 pm in a special time of worship and celebration. More information is available here, and a flyer for printing and sharing is here.

Click here to register. A registration fee covers the cost of housing and all meals; weekly and daily rates are available. Please contact Brenda Tyler at 888-346-2631 or with any questions.

Thanks to Westside!

Many of you may have volunteered at Westside Mission Station in New Orleans as part of the Disciples response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike. If you did, you may have received a letter this week from Bro. Vance Moore, who has directed the center in its ministry of compassion, announcing that Westside Mission Center will transition from a regionally operated rebuilding organization to a multi-purpose community facility for Westside Christian Church. In this letter, he included a special note to all the volunteers who have contributed to rebuilding New Orleans:

“Without you, Westside Mission Center would never have gotten past the vision and dreams stage. With God’s hand--through all of us--we made a difference! Hundreds of families are better off today than before you came, and from the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for allowing them to experience God through your actions and your love.”

Thanks, Brother Vance, the Great River Region, and all of the many partners who kept Westside rolling!

Week of Compassion supports Disciples as they engage in hands-on mission, whether on the Gulf Coast after a hurricane, in Middle Tennessee following severe flooding, or wherever we find ourselves called. Even if you can’t make a trip, you can volunteer your resources. Follow this link if you’d like to help us prepare for the next time Disciples are needed to volunteer!

Clean Water and an Opportunity for Young Adults

Pakistan: Relief efforts continue

In the two and half months since rains started generating Pakistan's worst floods, ACT Alliance, a partner of Week of Compassion, has delivered thousands of tons of food, health kits, household goods, and health care to well over 100,000 people. Learn more by clicking here..

An Initiative of Young Adult Disciples: "The Babel Table: from Tower to Table"

This project is aimed at engaging young adults in a church-wide conversation around the issues of "becoming a multicultural and inclusive church." This program will bring together groups of 12-15 Disciples young adults to participate in a hands-on mission and learning experience through a series of work trips to three different Disciples mission centers across the United States. All expenses will be covered.

Applications are now being received, with a November 15 deadline. For more details and to apply, visit

Why People of Faith Should Care about Clean Water

Dirty water kills more people than all forms of violence, including war. What does that have to do with you? Click here for one perspective.

Church World Service Highlights Latin American Churches' Peace and Human Rights Work

The human suffering and displacement of millions of Colombians forced from their homes, their land, and even their country to escape the violence of war has been called the "hidden crisis" because of its near invisibility on the global stage. Read More

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Uganda, flood relief

Click here for more responses.

Celebrating Strong and Consistent Advocacy for People in Need

There is a lot to celebrate at Week of Compassion. Executive Director Amy Gopp is currently enjoying a well-deserved sabbatical, rejuvenating and continuing to learn about peacemaking, ecumenism, and interfaith dialogue in her beloved Bosnia. Associate Director Brandon Gilvin married Dr. Lisa Hale in early October.

But these personal celebrations are not the only things worth celebrating at Week of Compassion. The effectiveness, resourcefulness, and flexibility of our ministry should be celebrated. After all, while one staff member was on sabbatical and another was getting married, Week of Compassion Administrator Elaine Cleveland and Rev. Rebecca Hale, chair of the Week of Compassion Advisory Committee, worked extra hard to keep the wheels of the organization turning and responded to several significant needs while Amy and Brandon were out. Leadership comes in many forms, and we thank God for all that Elaine and Rebecca contribute to Week of Compassion's ministry.

But there's even more to celebrate

Last week, Rev. Courtney Richards, also an advisory committee member, and Johnny Wray, former WoC Executive Director, represented Week of Compassion at a special celebration of IMA World Health, one of our many faithful ecumenical partners.

At the IMA celebration, Week of Compassion received the "Outstanding Support Award," which is given to the member or partner agency that consistently demonstrates leadership in their support for bringing health to hurting and vulnerable populations.

Upon presentation of the award, President of IMA World Health Rick Santos described Week of Compassion as "a strong and consistent advocate for people in need," and went on to say that WoC "takes action to help in any way they can."

It is an incredible honor for the ministry of Week of Compassion to be recognized in this way, and it is an honor that belongs to all of you who make the work of Week of Compassion possible. Amy, Brandon, Elaine, Rebecca, Courtney, Johnny, the rest of the advisory committee, and each and every person who responds from the pew, the pulpit, or through our online community--we are Week of Compassion, and inevitably, when we are called upon to respond, we take action in any way we can on behalf of those in need. 

Praise be to the God who creates, sustains, and in all things, loves!

And again, thank each and every one of you for reaching out with Courageous Compassion!

If you would like to partner with Week of Compassion, consider contributing to our Compassion Response Fund, a flexible fund that allows us to respond in the wake of natural and human-made disasters.